Philosophical Studies

Staff Profile

Dr Michael Lewis

Head of Philosophical Studies

Background


For the latest news on Philosophy at Newcastle, and a list of the events that we organise, please visit: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/ 

For information on the Journal of Italian Philosophy, please visit: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/italianphilosophy/

For recordings of the recent conference of the Philosophical Society of England in London, on French Philosophy, visit: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/2018/09/08/french-philosophy-conference-london-september-8th-2018/ 

For more on Robert Bernasconi's visit to Newcastle, see: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/2018/03/30/robert-bernasconi-race-and-the-anthropocene/

For recordings of the workshop on Philosophical Anthropology and Contemporary Continental Philosophy, please visit: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/2017/09/26/philosophical-anthropology-and-contemporary-continental-philosophy-recordings/

 

Biography

I have taught philosophy, film, psychoanalytic theory, and philosophical anthropology, at the University of Sussex (2007–9, 2011), University of Warwick (2010), the University of the West of England (2011–2015), and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (2016–), where I am currently Head of Philosophical Studies.

 

I am the co-founder and general editor of the Journal of Italian Philosophy.

 

I am happy to consider supervising doctoral projects on any topic in 19th, 20th, and 21st Century European Philosophy, Philosophical Anthropology, and Psycho-analysis. 

 

Current Doctoral Students

Elena Collaro, Thesis Topic: Time Perception in Non-Human Animals, 2019– (Fully-funded by AHRC, co-supervised with Neuroscience and Durham Anthropology).

Marco Pavanini, Thesis Topic: The Political Stakes of Anthropo-Technology: Sloterdijk and Stiegler, 2019– (Fully-funded by AHRC, co-supervised with Durham Modern Languages).

Elliot Sturdy, Thesis Topic: Botho Strauss, Ingeborg Bachmann and the Philosophy of Language in Jean-Luc Nancy, 2019– (Co-supervised with Modern Languages and Durham Modern Languages).

Tuba Ilan, Thesis Topic: Kant, Hegel, Rawls, 2018– (Fully-funded by the Government of Turkey).

Jim Lloyd, Thesis Topic: Animal Perception, 2018– (Fully-funded by AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium, co-supervised with Art History).

Nicky Brignell, Thesis Topic: Adorno and Hegel, 2018– (Fully-funded by AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium).


Research

My work at present considers the problem of the boundary between the human, understood by philosophy as a political, linguistic, and technical animal, and the non-human animal.

     The most substantial issue of this project will be a book entitled, The Reinvention of Man: Philosophy and Anthropology which investigates the motivations behind and the problems which haunt the project of a ‘philosophical anthropology’ (as developed by Gehlen, Plessner, and Scheler in the 1920’s and 30’s, but whose origins are much more ancient): in other words, it addresses the ontological or metaphysical questions of the essence of man, animal, and nature. I attempt to demonstrate how this project has been received and reinvented by various philosophers in the post-Kantian European tradition from Heidegger to Stiegler, from Derrida to Lacan, from Agamben and Esposito to Virno, by way of a number of other figures, all of whom are addressing the vexed question of ‘human nature’ and the ‘human animal’.

     This work is the continuation of a trilogy of books, which took as their point of departure my doctoral work on Martin Heidegger and the relation between ethics and politics in his work, (Heidegger and the Place of Ethics, 2005), which I developed in a later text (Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction: On Nature, 2007) in the direction of the question of nature (earth) and animality, including the animality of man, and thus in the direction of the ontological and ethico-political status of nature, and man’s ecological responsibilities, but perhaps more fundamentally this was to raise the most basic question of the anthropological project, which might be expressed in terms of the genesis of the transcendental, the natural preconditions for the emergence of transcendental structures and the transcendental subject.

     This work on the animality of man also concerned the question of the relation between transcendental philosophy and empirical science — the question of the place of empirical data, and in particular the results arrived at by anthropology, zoology and psychology, in a philosophical determination of the essence of man and the animal. This led to a comparative study of two ways of collapsing the transcendental-empirical (philosophical-scientific) divide, in Derridean deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory (Derrida and Lacan: Another Writing, 2008). The question of ‘structure and genesis’ was thereby raised in a new way.

     This project of rethinking the human, its language, politics, and technics, in their animal genesis, has more recently issued in two shorter books:

First, a small book on the notion of the domestic animal (a wild animal inducted into the human home or oikos), which attempts to demonstrate the significance of the conjunction of the notions of beauty and animality for Post-Kantian Philosophy in particular. Thus it begins from a consideration of Kant’s third critique, and the relation between its two halves, which deal precisely with beauty on the one hand, and the organism, on the other. This then leads us on to a consideration of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature and a number of recent and contemporary continental thinkers of the animal, and more precisely of the relation between nature and culture, animal and human, with Derrida perhaps foremost amongst them (but also others, including Wittgenstein, Levinas, Lacan, Heidegger, and Meillassoux) (The Beautiful Animal: Sincerity, Charm, and the Fossilised Dialectic, 2018).

Secondly, what may be considered a companion piece to the book on animals, a book on humans, as addressed by the work of Giorgio Agamben. Here we attempt to isolate the philosophical core of his work, and in particular the precise nature of the relation and order of foundation that exists between language, being, and the political (the book is provisionally entitled, Logic, Ontology, Politics: A Philosophical Reading of Agamben, and projected for completion in early 2019).

            Both of these texts, along with the trilogy that preceded them, may be conceived as prolegomena to the work described above under the heading of philosophical anthropology.

 

The published outcomes of this research in the recent past include the following: ‘Of a Mythical Philosophical Anthropology’ (in the volume, Stiegler and Technics, Edinburgh University Press, 2013), ‘Of (Auto-)Immune Life: Derrida, Esposito, Agamben’ (in Medicine and Society, Springer, 2015), ‘On Thinking at the End of the World: Derrida, Lyotard, Bataille’ (in Georges Bataille and Contemporary Thought, Bloomsbury, 2017), ‘Heidegger and Žižek: On Political and Non-Political Action at the End of History’ (in Heidegger and the Global Age, Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), ‘The Relation between Transcendental Philosophy and Empirical Science in Heidegger’s Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics’ (in Cosmos & History, 2017), ‘A Voice that is Merely Breath’ (in The Philosopher, 2018), and ‘Virno’s Philosophical Anthropology’ (in the Journal of Italian Philosophy, 2018).

 

In addition to this, I have an abiding interest in the critique of Ideology, particularly in the work of Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek, and in Italian Theory (David Rose and I are currently preparing the manuscript of The Bloomsbury Italian Philosophy Reader, which we hope will appear in 2019). I try to follow the work of several other contemporary and recent continental philosophers, including Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, Peter Sloterdijk, and Catherine Malabou, among others.

Some examples of my writing may be found on my Academia.edu website.


 

Teaching

In 2018-19, I am teaching:

  • Kantian and Post-Kantian Philosophy I: Idealism
  • Phenomenology
  • Projects (1st and 2nd year)
  • Sessions on Phenomenology and Post-structuralism in Thinking Theories and Methods, for postgraduates in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; one session on Alain Badiou for the MLitt Philosophy.


In 2017-18 I taught:

  • Philosophy and Religion
  • Knowledge and Human Interests
  • Meaning, Truth, and Language
  • Projects
  • A session on Postmodernism and Poststructuralism on the Postgraduate Research Methods module, for all doctoral students in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Two sessions on the MLitt in Philosophy course, PHI9001 Research Assignments, concerning Agamben's What is Philosophy? and a research talk on Paolo Virno's Essay on Negation.


In 2016-17, I taught:

  • Philosophy and Religion, 2016–17.
  • European Philosophical Traditions II: Moral Philosophy and Human Nature, 2016–17.
  • Meaning, Truth, and Language, 2016–17. 
  • Cultural Contradictions of Scientific Rationality, 2016–17. 
  • Knowledge and Human Interests, 2016–17 (Seminars in Term 1).
  • Philosophy Project, 2016–17.

Publications